The playoffs took a turn for the bizarre on Saturday night. After the refs made some questionable calls in San Diego, and the Eagles continued their dominance over Minnesota, the divisional playoffs were officially set. With that, here's how this weekend's games look from the eyes of a neutral onlooker.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Chargers got lucky because the refs made some seriously questionable calls in overtime. In the end, it was the foot of Nate Kaeding that continued the Cinderella season of San Diego. But when they go to Pittsburgh, it will take more than a simple field goal to contain the snowstorm known as The Snow Curtain Defense.
The Steelers have been off and on all season, but they've done enough to secure the No. 2 spot and a home game, which benefits them in January. Ben Roethlisberger hopes to lead a fragile offense to a victory this weekend. But it will be the defense that will lead them to victory. When a tough offense locks horns with a tenacious defense, the defense usually wins.
It worked for the Ravens against that dangerous Wildcat Offense. Which is why the Steelers will win this game. The Bolts will not be ready for the anarchy that the Terrible Towels will unleash. The forecast calls for a smashmouth throwback game...a game that Pittsburgh wins. Therefore, the clock strikes midnight for San Diego this weekend.
Final Score: Steelers 31, Chargers 20
Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans
The Ravens proved yesterday that defense wins championships. This weekend they look to become that Cinderella team that started in the wild card and went on to the Super Bowl...ala Titans of 2000. But to do that, they will have to face the same team that pulled off the Music City Miracle...and looks to add another amazing chapter in 2K9.
The Titans suffered some severe drawbacks in the offseason. Their star quarterback, Vince Young, suffered an emotional breakdown when he started feeling the true pressures of being the leader of a football team.
In his place, Kerry Collins resurrected his career and brought pride back into the Titans organization. Now he looks to get some more pride back and become one of the few quarterbacks to lead two teams (in separate conferences) to the Super Bowl.
I didn't give the Ravens enough credit last week, and that was my fault. But this is a traditional North-South Rivalry. On one hand, you have the former Cleveland Browns eyeing a return to the dominance they had in 2003. On the other, you have the former Houston Oilers looking to make up for the "one yard short" joke they've been hearing for eight years. So who gets the victory? Well...
Final Score: Titans 35, Ravens 21
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
Did anyone see the Eagles making it this far? After a season that saw people wanting D-Mac and Andy Reid ran out of town, the Eagles are heading back to familiar territory...so to speak.
Philadelphia already has a victory there, but can they get one in the postseason, with possibly the jobs of two of their big names in jeopardy? The Eagles took it upon themselves to roll into the Twin Cities and send the mighty Vikings home (which was a few blocks away, I believe) with a loss.
The Giants are looking to repeat as World Champions, but to do that, they will need to make up for the loss they suffered at the hands of Philly. Eli Manning proved that he can win in the playoffs. They proved that they can function without the stupidity of Plaxico Burress. Now the playoffs have arrived, and Coughlin's job is safe.
So when you got two teams who spent the entire season beating the crap out of each other, who do you pick when it's "Win or Go Home" time? I'll tell you this one. Despite having Brian Westbrook back, the Eagles may not have enough to beat a motivated Giants team that is looking to show that their magical run of 2008 was not a fluke.
Manning will do enough to keep the New York Football Giants in the running, but will that be enough to beat either the Cards or the Panthers?
Final Score: Giants 30, Eagles 17
Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers
The most surprising team in the NFC was not the Minnesota Vikings, it was the Arizona Cardinals. Again, Jay Mariotti took it upon himself to tell the Cards that they were should have forfeited their division crown to someone else. Unfortunately for him, the Cards aren't going anywhere.
They proved that they can play playoff football. This isn't Jake "The Fake" Plummer we're talking about here. This is Kurt Warner, a proven playoff specialist, and the duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald that has the Cards thinking that they can actually play ball with the big boys.
This weekend, they get their second dose of southern hospitality.
The Carolina Panthers went from mediocrity to supremacy in the NFC South. After Atlanta failed to finish off the Flying Redbirds of Tempe/Phoenix/Tucson, it is up to playoff veteran Jake Delhomme and Mr. Primetime himself, Steve Smith, to finish the job started by Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds. For all intents and purposes, John Fox knows that this is the year where his job is on the line—until they hoist a Super Bowl Trophy.
This could be the year that it actually happens. As tough as the Cards played last week against Hot-Lanta, Arizona may not have enough strength to outlast the dangerous defense of Carolina. Julius Peppers is looking to lead the defense back to the promise land...and this time, they may have enough to actually beat the Giants and make it to the Super Bowl.
Final Score: Panthers 27, Cardinals 14
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